Rafael Alvarez is an illustrator, animator, and creative director from Madrid Spain. He was raised by an economist and painter, neither of which were very excited about the idea of him pursuing a career in art. Alvarez studied economics and spent a number of years working for an American multinational corporation, while keeping a passion fueled night job as a comic artist.
One day, he started feeling detached from his successful business life, and more excited about his artwork than ever. So, he quit his job and moved to the only place where people wouldn’t think he’d lost his mind: New York.
Alvarez spent some years in Brooklyn and just recently moved to Berlin. Bomb Snow caught up with him there and so it goes:
Are you just making art now, or does a second job help pay the bills?
I made a radical career change so in a way I have to honor that decision and be fully devoted to illustration. The life of an illustrator has a lot of variety, though. On top of editorial and commercial illustrations, I make animations, performlectures and teach a class at University [Berlin Technische Kunsthoch-schule-BTK].
Have you read any inspiring books lately?
I really enjoyed Economix, a smart and critical story of the economy written and illustrated in graphic novel format by Michael Goodwin and Dan E. Burr.
Now that I’m teaching a course in Berlin, all of my recent readings are Art related classics: Burne Hogarth´s books on dynamic anatomy, essays on composition by the Famous Artists School (Norman Rockwell, Albert Dorne, etc.)
Do you subscribe to any magazines?
Only online. I love paper, but I change locations often
so it´s more practical for me to read online.
Our span of attention gets smaller every day and our brains are bombed with carefully manipulated content. It´s difficult to separate sensationalism from truth and therefore we are on the verge of not caring anymore about anything.
Where do you see yourself five years from now?
I am extremely happy with my personal and professional life now but there are always new things to discover. I’d like to find new clients, explore Berlin´s street art scene, maybe settle down. I may someday return to Brooklyn, but for now, I am content in Berlin.
I’d also like to study new ways of interactive storytelling in tablet format, which I hope will work well in the near future and become more of a predominant part of my work.
What projects are you working on right now?
I am going to give a lecture on interactive illustration at Apple´s flagship store in Berlin, so I am sketching and preparing a new “app” portfolio with interactive work.
Describe a typical day:
Wake up at 9. Coffee. Hit the studio at 11. Coffee. Do some emailing, creative procrastination and paperwork to warm up. Coffee. Draw until 7pm. Coffee. Teach a Digital Illustration Class until 10pm. Beer. Go home, watch some good TV, pass out. Repeat.
What’s your favorite medium? Can you explain your
illustration process to our readers?
I love pure, old-school black ink on paper.
First I sketch the idea roughly for composition purposes, not larger than a thumbnail in my sketchbook. When I am clear about the composition, I scan it, look for useful photo references and make some more refined sketches digitally. When I am happy with the sketch I print it and make the final linework using a lightbox, a brush and India Ink. I scan the final again, add color digitally...and the illustration is ready!
Do you feel media is censored more in the US or in Europe?
Mass media in the US and Europe is pretty similar and censorship is not always that obvious because we live under a theoretical umbrella of freedom. Although there are flagrant cases of censorship and reprisals, like Pussy Riot in Russia, most European countries and the US fancy themselves as examples of freedom of speech, and that is only true on a superficial level.
The media system itself is aggressively driven by short-term profits, which dramatically affect the ability of content providers to stay true to their values, integrity and critical thinking